At the inauguration ceremony of Auroville on 28th February 1968, representatives of 124 countries and 23 Indian states placed a handful of earth from their homelands in a lotus-shaped urn at the centre of the future township, in symbolic gesture of human unity. It’s an experimental township in Viluppuram, Pondicherry, founded in 1968 by Mirra Alfassa (known as "the Mother") and designed by architect Roger Anger.
Once a barren plateau of largely red earth, thanks to the untiring tree-planting efforts of the first pioneers Auroville has been transformed into a lush green landscape in which a city is progressively beginning to take shape, radiating out from its centre, the Mantrimandir, into four zones – the International, the Cultural, the Residential and the Industrial – each focusing on an important aspect of community life
Auroville- facts and Figure (figures from 2015)
Planned surface area - acres 4,932 (20sq km)
Area owned by Auroville- acres 2000 (8sq km)
Population- Approx 2100
Nationalities represented- 43
Indian residents 911
Auroville schools 7
Auroville outreach school 5
Health centres 2
Patients annually 10,000
Dental clinics 2
Patients annually 4000
Alternative energy installations 500
(solar, bio, wind, steam)
Auroville home offices using 250
Auroville settlements relying 26
On alternative energy only
Acres of afforested land 1250
No of trees planted 1.5 million
No of employees 4-5000
Commercial units 125
Service units 75
Matrimandir- the soul of local community
The large golden sphere is conspicuous by its presence in the heart of the township. It seems to emerge out of earth, symbolising the birth of a new consciousness. Since the past 45 years, Matrimandir's slow and steady progress towards completion has been followed by many.
While walking through the lovely green Matrimandir Gardens (divided into 12 individually named parks such as "Harmony", "Bliss", Perfection" each with their variety of flowers, shrubs and trees, one's attention is greatly drawn by this important and powerful feature at the heart of the city which was seen by the Mother as the "symbol of the Divine's answer to man's aspiration for perfection" and as "the central cohesive force" for the growth of Auroville.
And the finances
At least I haven’t come across such concept in modern time as the Aurovillean Financial Service. This started in the 80s as a sincere endeavour to do away with "money circulation. All the residents and volunteers participate in this process. Since then, nearly all internal transactions between units and Aurovilians are done through electronic transfers using these accounts. The Financial Service is the shorthand name that Aurovilians use for the Auroville Maintenance Fund, but they are actually identical.
Auroville Maintenance Fund (AVMF), which incorporates the City Services, is Auroville’s major fund concerned with internally generated and distributed money, as opposed to donations from outside (which are handled by Auroville Unity Fund). The administrative aim is to collect monthly contributions from Auroville businesses or commercial units, projects, guest houses and individuals, and process the distribution of these, mainly through the City Services, which disburses monthly payments according to budgetary needs of each service unit. (Source Auroville website www.auroville.org)
They have their own preloaded debit card called Aurocard which works very well with all the shops, showrooms, hotels, restaurant and other services.
There are occasional allegations of very few handling the ever clandestine money matters with absolute opaqueness.
Over the past 48 years, with the assistance of private donors and national and international governmental and non-governmental organisations, Auroville has grown into an expanding community consisting of some 100+ settlements of varying size inhabited by more than 2100 people from India and 43 other countries.
The residents are engaged in a wide range of activities, including research into a cashless economy, environmental regeneration, organic farming, renewable energy, appropriate building technology, village development, handicrafts and small-scale industries, healthcare, education cross-cultural communications and many other fields.
A major source of employment for the 40,000 inhabitants of local villages, Auroville works closely with them to improve their infrastructure and provide education and health care.
In the words of the Mother “For millennia, we have been developing outer means, outer instruments, outer techniques of living, and finally those means and techniques are crushing us. The sign of new humanity is a reversal in the standpoint, and the understanding that inner knowledge and inner technique can change the world and master it without crushing it.
Auroville is the place where this new way of living is being worked out, it is a centre of accelerated evolution where man must begin to change his world through the power of inner spirit.”
I see a reflection of Auroville in my life, however small it may be, however incomplete it may be. May be perhaps that’s the uniqueness of our journey, with beautiful intention and mindful application of knowledge, skill and resources. In our place, titles and positions would eventually be replaced by opportunities to serve and organise.
Auroville has no equal in India, at least in intention and execution. I foresee many areas where we can learn from Aurovilean to foster spirit of vibrant community which can live in harmony with nature. Beauty in all artistic forms, painting, sculpture, music literature, earth friendly construction, solar and wind energy generation, organic clothing, and holistic education, unique food produce are all viable options to explore. Besides the tempting visuals, I also came across some unique artisanal products such as bamboo and organic cotton cloths, handmade jewelry, spirulina, mason chocolate bars, small musical instruments from Svaram, Mandala and mantra pottery ceramics, and many other products waiting to be explored. I also met experts from various walks of life, notable ones are chocolate making (beans to bar) by Jane Mason, Awareness through body by Aloka and Joan, highly accomplished beautician Julian Koch, Auroville earth institute experts, water and waste management experts, bamboo art experts etc.
Hope where despair reigned,
Peace, which once was the place of abandoned and bandits,
Harmony, unconditional commitment to blur the line of nation and nationalities
No task was too daunting, the vision guided to overcome hurdles and hardship.